Depending on the actions you take after a car accident, you may sacrifice important protections or possibly bring yourself unnecessary legal trouble. It is normal to feel disoriented after an accident, but it is still important to keep your wits about you and avoid actions you may later regret. From the moment an accident occurs, the actions you take may either protect or harm you and your interests.
Immediately after the accident, check to make sure you and your passengers don’t have any notable injuries. Even if you do not see or feel any injury, it is important to seek out medical treatment as soon as you can. You may have injuries that are not yet causing pain, and catching them early can save you months of recovery and suffering.
Speaking with other parties in the accident
You can begin protecting yourself by minding what you say to other parties in the accident. While it is not practical to completely avoid speaking with the other parties, remember that everything you say may be used to claim that you accept responsibility. In some cases, if you apologize to another driver after the accident, he or she may claim that you actually accepted liability through the apology.
If you do not want to say anything that may claim liability, you can simply give the other party your information and refer them to your attorney if they have further questions. An attorney can help you field any questions from the other parties and help you understand how to protect your rights until the issue is resolved.
Should police come to the scene of the accident, they will want you to give an accurate account of the accident. It is important to be truthful about the events in the accident without indicating that you accept blame. Even if you suspect that you are responsible, you may not have all the relevant information, and might later wish to retract your claim. Of course, it is rarely easy to retract a claim of liability once you accept it, and the other parties are not likely to accept it without a challenge.
Avoiding legal complications
In some cases, especially when an accident results from another driver’s foolish actions, it is easy to lose your temper at the scene or storm off in frustration. This is both counterproductive and dangerous. If you choose to antagonize the other parties or a police officer who comes to the scene, it will only make you look very unsympathetic if there is a challenge to your version of events.
You must also resist the urge to leave the scene of the crime if you are not doing so to pursue urgent medical attention. In general, leaving the scene of an accident is a crime, and you may receive criminal charges for doing so.
Dealing with insurers
Insurance companies are motivated to remain profitable, not motivated to be examples of generous or even fair dealing. It is often very difficult to get an insurer to pay for your accident-related expenses and losses if you do not fully understand the process of filing a claim and pursuing it.
Be sure that you consider any offer from an insurance company very carefully. A good settlement fairly and fully addresses all the areas of your life affected by the accident, so you should not settle for less than you deserve.